What happened to and what's next for failed personhood measure?
The personhood movement has gained traction nationwide and has been represented at the annual "March for Life" event in Washington.
November 9th, 2011
12:58 PM ET

What happened to and what's next for failed personhood measure?

In the weeks leading up to Mississippi's vote on whether to declare a fertilized egg a person and grant it full rights, nearly everyone was saying the measure was sure to pass.

It was considered the perfect place to mount what could have been a historic challenge to abortion laws: After all, Mississippi is the most anti-abortion, religious and conservative state, according to a Gallup Poll. It was supposed to give a boost to the nationwide movement of the Colorado-based nonprofit Christian group Personhood USA, which is attempting to get the measure on the ballot in several other states.

The measure had all of the momentum within the state, with both the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor endorsing it.

But on Tuesday, voters rejected the measure.

So what exactly happened?

There were a few theories floating around Wednesday morning after the measure was defeated. (The Clarion-Ledger said with 96% of precincts reporting, the vote was 58% to 42% against the measure.)

1) People began asking questions about the language of the amendment.

Many of those opposing the bill who spoke to CNN said there simply had not been enough discussion about what the amendment would actually do. Women we spoke to said they felt this was government overreaching to begin with, but they weren't even sure how far-reaching it would be because the language was so ambiguous.

They wanted to know: What are the implications? What will it mean for women's reproductive rights? What does it mean about the decisions a woman can make with her doctor? Will it mean women will be at the mercy of the state when it comes to everything from taking certain birth control pills to trying to conceive if a couple is infertile? What happens to those fertilized eggs for IVF treatments if they aren't used? And would people be facing prosecution if they did any of those things?

Certainly, as opponents suggested, the vague language of the bill and the unknown implications could have been part of what swayed voters.

Many of those questions were dismissed by those in support of the bill, saying they were merely scare tactics. All they were trying to do was give equal rights to the unborn, supporters said, the same ones afforded to the mother.

2) Media organizations from across the country descended on Mississippi in the week before the election to cover the controversial issue.

The national media spotlight added to the conversation around the measure and certainly gained attention for the movement. As coverage ramped up, the scales seemed to start tipping. A measure that was expected to pass easily now was really stirring up debate. Legal experts began discussing the implications, contending the amendment would violate federal law as outlined by the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Columnists across the globe began weighing in on the amendment itself, what it meant for the abortion debate overall, and whether they felt this was the right way to go about a change.

Members of the media also began speaking to some key figures from prominent churches who were anti-abortion, but said they still couldn't endorse the measure because they feared the bill might be so ambiguous or far-reaching that it could actually hamper the ability to take down Roe v. Wade and it could actually strengthen its standing.

3) Key figures voiced concerns right before the election.

In the day before the election, polls were the closest they had ever been, with a Public Policy poll showing that 44% opposed the constitutional amendment and 45% supported it. That meant there was a key 11% of voters who were undecided on the issue - and a media campaign was directed their way. Grass-roots efforts from the group No on 26 picked up with the support of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

But there are many who suggest that comments from outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour in the middle of last week  could have been part of what swayed the vote. As the debate about the proposed amendment bubbled to the national level, the fiercely conservative governor came out and did something not many expected: He expressed that he was undecided about the issue, saying it was "too ambiguous."

Then, on Friday, Barbour came out and publicly said that even though he still had some concerns, he believed that life did begin at conception, and had cast his ballot.

But for some, that undecided statement, from a very anti-abortion man, was a signal that the measure might be in trouble.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article on why support waned as Election Day neared. Their subhead read: "Reservations by the medical community and even Gov. Haley Barbour ahead of Election Day have made a dent in support for a Mississippi measure that would confer 'personhood' on fertilized eggs."

What happens now for personhood movement?

Those behind the Mississippi measure, and the nationwide movement for "personhood," have said that they will continue their efforts to give equal rights to the unborn from the moment of conception.

"Personhood USA understands that changing a culture - and changing a country - will not happen with one election, and so it is not unexpected," a statement on their website reads. "We thank the over one quarter of a million Mississippians who voted for Amendment 26. We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people because we are assured that it is the right thing to do, and we are prepared for a long journey."

That long journey may not take long to continue. While Mississippi was expected to be the best chance at passing the measure, there are still plenty of other states taking up the cause, including nine that will have it on the ballot during the 2012 presidential election. They include the key states of Florida and Ohio.

"State by state, and election by election, we are taking critical steps towards defending the right to life of all human beings, every person, and ending the dangerous and deadly practice of abortion," the group said. "The time has come for America to stop treating the unborn as property to be disposed of as we see fit. We are thankful that lives were saved and hearts were changed through the Yes on 26 campaign, and we are prepared to do it again in multiple states across the nation."

Yes on 26, the state group in Mississippi working with Personhood USA, had removed almost all of their videos and language from their website as of Wednesday morning. All that remained was a lone photo of a fetus, shown below, with the words Thank You, for those who supported the measure.

The website for Yes on 26 has replaced most of their campaign literature with this photo.

But if Personhood USA's statement is any indication, the fight against Roe v. Wade and the battle to redefine "personhood" will continue across the nation. Personhood USA says it expects to have the measure back on the ballot in Mississippi a second time, as it did in Colorado.

"We recognize that the right time to end abortion in Mississippi is now, and that is why the citizens of Mississippi will attempt a personhood ballot measure again - and again, if necessary - until every person’s life is protected," the group said.

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Filed under: Abortion • Mississippi • U.S.
soundoff (1,721 Responses)
  1. Al Stefanelli

    "In the weeks leading up to Mississippi's vote on whether to declare a fertilized egg a person and grant it full rights, nearly everyone was saying the measure was sure to pass. So, what happened?"

    I'll tell you what happened, more people than not realized it was completely insane. The logic and purpose behind this measure is the same as it is for Creationism. It's an outreach of Christian apologetics and has no place in our legal system.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Not All Docs Play Golf

    If these people really wanted to minimize abortions, thay should be SUPPORTING Planned Parenthood, not attacking it.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryM

      Agreed Doc

      November 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Roger

    If personhood started at fertilization then mothers would be on the hook for so many things under the law. Pregnant women could be ticketed for not having their <13 yr old in a proper car seat while driving. Mothers can't take any Rx's as doctors can't perscribe Rx's to multiple people on the same Rx. Mothers can't use an airplane's bathroom without violating federal transportation laws on occupants in the bathroom. So many laws would be broken by a pregnant woman it would be hard to count.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. apostate

    prolifers are for the fetus until it is born, then the kid is in wind.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      This is the key concept that they will NEVER EVER understand. Better to do an abortion at 4 weeks or put a kid through poverty and misery and a probably life of criminality / put a child in a home he is not wanted. But they will never understand it and they will never support efforts to lower teen pregnancies because they only believe in abstinence

      November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GCV

    The self-rightieous yet hate filled and bigoted far right have over extended their power and outstayed their welcome. The pendulum now shifts away from their direction

    November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      It's hateful to want to protect life?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      It doesn't protect women's lives.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      I guess it comes down to how many lives you are killing comparied to how many you are saving.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Que

    Why can't we all have the right to kill our kids if we don't want them? O we do, never mind. We have come so far in our society. It makes me so glad we are moving forward. So when can I start killing my parents when they become a burden and a money hardship? Yes lets keep moving forward. Sooner or later all the people that we don't want around we can just kill off. It's called a progressive society! All the unwanted, unuseful people can be killed and forgotten about! Now thats progress!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      Ummm, most Americans aren't interested in your oppressive theocratic fascist state where the government literally forces women to give birth against their will. None of your desperate and dishonest equivalencies change the fact that banning abortion does not stop or even reduce abortions. It just oppresses and kills women. We don't want your Christian Taliban in our lives. Get it?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Que

      I guess I just don't like the complete disreguard for the value of life that seems to be everywhere. I understand wanting to save a mothers life, but most women do not find themselves in that place. The ones that do should be able to decide what they want done before hand. I just see a whole lot of people who don't want to take resposibility. If I am not understanding it right then help me out.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Queue the drama

      Que – You have a penchant for over-embellishment. If I had to grade your work I would suggest that you keep at least one foot firmly planted in reality vice running rampant in a world of extreme fantasies. Besides that, good work. With some effort you may produce some material worth watching instead of this "first thing that popped into my head" theatrics.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Queue the finale

      And boom goes the dynomite

      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Que

      Ok you made no point at all except to attack my thoughts. When you have something intelligent to say come back.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Normal to some

    So if a girl gives a BJ she could be prosecuted for murder?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      Only if she swallows.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. johnqpublic

    the only way i could see this amendment passing is if they also stipulated in law that mothers must abstain from drugs, alcohol and smoking, take good care of themselves, receive regular medical checkups, and then provide a stable, healthy home for the child.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SocialConsequences

    Given that a woman doesn't typically know immediately whether fertilization has been successful, would behavior after copulation that could put a fertilized egg at risk (say, strenuous athletic activity, or even walking on an icy sidewalk) lead to charges of involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide in the event of a miscarriage?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MaryM

    These "personhood" measures will not pass in ANY STATE. 1) Most important, these measures infringe on the RIGHTS OF WOMEN. 2) The "personhood" group IS a RELIGIOUS group and that in its self will make ALL their attempts FAIL. Just like these personhood people FAILED in Colorado, twice and now Mississippi.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Realist

    Yeah republicans believe the right to life begins at conception. Now if they would start recognizing that it doesn't end when we are born...............

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alfuso

    can the woman evict it?

    How the heck did anyone imagine that could have been enforced?

    Just when IS conception? It takes 7-10 days for the egg get to the uterus and implant. Only then does the woman begin producing the hormone HCG which keeps the egg attached and growing. And it takes about another week for there to be enough of it to be detected in a pregnancy test.

    So, during that time, how can anyone know she's conceived?

    If it's a person, can she evict it? Claim it as a dependent for an additional nine months? Have to get it a passport in order to travel overseas?

    Ah, but think of the jobs which could have been created for Pregnancy Police. Brood management – keeping her in a locked room until she delivers.

    And every period gleaned to see if an egg was expelled. Then jail her for murder.

    And who is this "God" guy impregnating thousands of Mississippi women? Is this the same dick who knocked some guy's wife 2000 years ago and never paid child support? The same God guy who makes tsunamis, earthquakes and Penn State coaches?

    The jerk is a git.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jason

    Choice is paramount. It's when we confuse this choice with convenience that many have a problem. Let's keep choice what it is – a choice between the woman and her Dr....and keep the "abortion as birth control" to a minimum....
    http://www.findurmessage.com

    November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matthew

    This amendment was worded wrong – sure. I can concede that. Women always need to have the power to protect themselves from serious physical harm or death by seeking abortion services in those rare cases. But those account for less than 10% of all abortions. More than 80% of abortions are abortions of convenience. It is beyond my comprehension how a country which so willing condones the extermination of a huge part of its future population can expect to have much of a future at all.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      You keep making the same point over and over and over again, and nobody buys it. For a productive future, we need people who WANT and CAN raise kids to have kids. How many unwanted children have you adopted? The US population is obviously growing, so your point is moot.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Where are you getting these numbers from?

      Oh, wait...it's just that you keep forgetting to put 'not intended to be a factual statement' in front of every post.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      @ sequoia
      And who is going to decide who really can raise their kids? You? LOL You want to play God with the lives of people who cannot choose for themselves. Did you ever stop and think about whether that child might want to live if given a choice? Sure it can't decide untill it understands, but your arguement would make more sence if you were pushing for people to be helped to kill themselves if they hated their lives. At least then it is their choice.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      How many times are you going to keep repeating this??? We know how you feel, thank you, now please stop repeating yourself.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IHateReligion Fanatics

    Thank you for bringing Christian Sharia Law down!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      HORAY! EXTERMINATION OF THE UNBORN FOR EVERYONE! WE DON'T NEED A FUTURE POPULATION, RIGHT?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      thats true, keeping the numbers down is an added bonus.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @Matthew – you already look like a nutcase, so don't worry, you don't have to keep driving the point home even further.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • IHateReligion Fanatics

      7 billion is not enough for you?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
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